The important question of the taxation of college property, recently brought to the notice of the courts in the case of the President and Fellows of Harvard College vs. the assessors of the city of Cambridge, in a suit to recover taxes assessed upon buildings used by officers and students of the College, was decided yesterday by the Supreme Court of the State of Massachusetts in favor of the plaintiff. The buildings included the house of President Eliot, the old Foxcroft Club house and the houses of several professors. The statement by the court with regard to the case is in part as follows:
"The history of Harvard College and like institutions shows we think that from the beginning, dormitories and dining halls have been furnished by the College for the use of the students and have been regarded as devoted to College purposes. We do not think that it means any difference in principle that the College, instead of itself furnishing board provides a place without rent or compensation in any form or a lease or any agreement for a fixed term for the use of students who club together for the purpose of obtaining for themselves with the assistance of the College, food at cost. . . . The history of the College and of the legislation relating to it also shows, we think, that the President's home, during the earlier years of the College at any rate, was regarded as almost if not quite as necessary for the purpose of the institution as dormitories and dining halls. Public money was appropriated by the General Court to build it, as it had been to build the College buildings, and the occupancy of it was considered as altogether official. It seems to us that on these facts the dominant and principal occupancy by the President cannot fairly be regarded than that for which the College was incorporated, and that the justice of the Superior Court who heard the case was justified in so finding. . . . . . . .
The Court says further in regard to the houses of the professors: "We think it was competent for the judge of the Superior Court, who heard the case, to find the fact that the principal or dominant consideration in regard to the occupation of the houses by the several professors had reference to the performance of their duties in the offices which they held as professors and otherwise, rather than to the private benefit which they would receive in the way of homes for themselves and their families, and he was justified in finding that the occupancy was for the purpose for which the College was incorporated."
In summing up, the Court says: "The distinction lies, it seems to us, between an occupancy which is for the private benefit and convenience of the officer and which is so regarded by the parties as in the ordinary case of landlord and tenant, and an occupancy where, although necessarily to some extent the relation of landlord and tenant enters into it, the dominant or principal matter of consideration is the effect of the occupancy in promoting the objects of the institution and upon the efficiency and influence of the officers as such and upon those whom the institution designs to benefit. In the former case the property would not be exempt, and in the latter it would."